Health Communication: does it always need to have health related outcomes?

Following on from the previous post on the importance of communication in health care – I noted another, slightly different article in the current issue of the Internal Medical Journal “Impact of providing patients with copies of their medical correspondence: a randomised controlled study”.

 

Firstly, its is refreshing to think that simple and practical tools such as this are being examined. As a consumer, I relish tangible information or products, as they provide ongoing reinforcement and guidance. This is especially true in a health setting, where I cherish every physiotherapy exercise sheet given to me – both as a reminder of my condition and a guide to potential improvement.

 

  This trial examined the utility of providing consumers at an endoscopy clinic with written information in the form of clinical correspondence with the GP and procedure report, compared against routine care (no written information). The results demonstrated patient’s really valued the information; with almost all the patient’s wishing to continue receiving correspondence, perceived it improved their understanding of the disease, and slightly improved overall satisfaction. However this didn’t translate to improved health-related outcomes; with no improvement in anxiety or depression levels.

 

  The information we usually provide to our patients is far more complex than an endoscopy report, and patients are often fatigued, distracted by pain and nausea, or may have limited English. Patient information may serve many purposes and provide value to consumers, and plays a particular role as a communique with carers and other health providers who may not receive more formal correspondence in Palliative Care.

 

  We don’t expect patient information to cure anxiety or depression, but can it be a subjective good due to effects in empowering patients and carers? If consumers place value in something I believe it can translate to value to the health system, as only objective goods are stuck under the prime magnet on the fridge door. We may need to revise how we measure this.

 

Matt Grant